I think I’ve hit upon one of the reasons I get restless after being in one place for too long. It’s very simple: I run out of things to write. I mean, I can sit here writing about anything under the sun until long after all my readers have fallen asleep, but as a writer, you just can’t beat the feeling of arriving in a fresh new country and suddenly being overwhelmed by potential blog posts coming at you from all directions. Nowadays, after nearly two years in Korea, I’m perfectly content but suffering from a growing ache to write about something new. Nothing is strange any more! Not the crazy taxi drivers, not the nosey old woman upstairs who accosted Terri and me and inspected our shopping yesterday, not the suddenness of a monsoon downpour, not the women covered from head to toe for fear of catching a freckle, not the vending machines with live lobsters in them, nothing! Nothing is strange. It has become the norm.
So while my brain searches for a way to write about my second summer in South Korea without rehashing all the drivel from last year about humidity and monsoon season and big bugs and sweat and iced coffee and air-con, please accept this random, rambling, unrelated post on things I like beginning with the letter ‘d’. I did a similar post on ‘p’ yonks ago, and decided that another one could temporarily relieve my desire to write. I got a child at school to pick a letter for me. Here are my ‘d’ choices, in no particular order:
With every passing year, I become less and less interested in the shallow, superficial aspects of life, and more and more eager for deep, meaningful relationships accompanied by challenging conversations. Small talk becomes ever more dreary and unappealing to me. I mean, sure, sometimes it’s nice to switch the brain off and just have a bit of a giggle about nothing in particular, but for the most part, I’d rather have interesting conversations or no conversations at all. Having gotten the belated student partying phase out of my system, I now choose to spend most of my free time (which, admittedly, isn’t much!) alone, preferring to meet for a quiet meal or drink with individual good friends now and again than be part of a crowd. Two hours at dinner with a true friend, having a real conversation, is worth infinitely more to me than several weekends in a row making small talk in a large group – something that wears me out and drains away my energy instead of giving me pleasure. Quality over quantity, depth over area.
Not so much the ones you have while you’re asleep, not even the ones you have for your life and your future, but more the unreasonable, unattainable, often-embarrassing, unrealistic, head-in-the-clouds dreams that you don’t share with anyone. I am a dreamer by nature – always have been. I used to lose myself in these fantasy worlds when I was a teenager, often for weeks at a time, turning them into ridiculous works of fiction which I’d spend hours writing down simply for the pleasure of reading them afterwards and having them feel just a little bit more tangible. I once wrote an entire novel-length dream in which I was a budding young actress travelling to America in search of my big break – which of course I found instantly, and ended up not only starring in a movie alongside David Duchovny, but also becoming friends with him, moving in as his lodger, and finally bringing him and Gillian Anderson together. I had a Californian surfer-dude boyfriend and everything. I wrote about it all – the good times, the bad times, the memorable moments and the humdrum. I actually lost sight of reality for a few weeks, only really coming alive when I was able to go up to my room to reengage with my fantasy life and write, write, write.
Nowadays, I spend more time in reality, but I have not lost the love of dreaming. I don’t write them down any more, because I don’t have the time. Which, although probably a healthy thing, makes me a little bit sad…
My dad is loved by just about everyone, and that makes me proud. He’s the most easy-going person you’ll meet, and although he’s as awkward as me about phone calls and random visits to people’s houses, I can’t imagine anyone who couldn’t sit down and have a laugh with him over a pint or two. He’s quiet (like me!) and happy to sit with his nose in a book (like me!) and doesn’t really go into much detail about his thoughts and feelings and so on (like… oh. Erm, never mind.). He’s very funny. For some reason one silly little moment has always stayed in my head, from when I was very small. We were on one of our family “mystery trips” one bank holiday, and Mum went to get ice cream from the van while we stayed in the car with Dad. She passed the cones in to us, and Dad, unseen by us, broke off the small tip of his cone and scooped up a little bit of ice cream in it. Then he turned around to us, holding up the tiny miniature cone between his finger and thumb, and said with an annoyed expression on his face, “I know I asked for a small cone, but this is ridiculous!”. We thought it was hilarious, and giggled for ages. It still makes me smile, trivial as it was. Love you, Dad!
I have never been a great fan of daylight. Yes, a sunny day makes me feel happy, but I am the ultimate night person. I come alive when it gets dark. Much of that writing when I was a teenager was continued into the wee small hours, hurriedly leaping up to switch out the light if I heard a noise that sounded like it might be Mum coming to catch me still awake so late on a school night. I love walking at night, when it’s dark and the world has become a different, more interesting, mysterious place, shadows and stillness mingling with streetlights and the sound of distant voices. You aren’t on show in the darkness – you’re hidden. I like that.
I really miss driving, but I will never do it here. I would have a nervous breakdown, seriously. No, I don’t miss fighting my way through busy town centres, inch by inch, bumper to bumper. What I miss is driving along a long stretch of open road with my music blasting, or taking in the scenic routes along the coast or through the countryside. I would drive when I got angry, and it helped calm me down. I would drive when I felt sad, and it would help lift my spirits. I don’t know when I’ll drive again, since I always seem to end up living in busy cities where a car would be an unnecessary expense.
6. David Hyde Pierce
Ahhh. Niles. He’s old enough to be my father, he’s gay, he’s married, and he’s not actually my type at all, but still I have a thing for this man. Frasier is one of my favourite TV shows of all time, and it’s David Hyde Pierce who never fails to have me laughing hysterically, even when I’ve seen the episode dozens of times before. I want to see him perform on stage, and will definitely be making it a priority next time I’m in the US.
I like risk. There was always something that appealed to me about going right to the top of the climbing frame and feeling momentarily uncertain as to how I was going to get down. Swimming out too far in the sea and having a moment of panic as I felt wave after wave try to pull me out into the depths of the ocean. Balancing on a high branch of a tree and experiencing that dizzying nervous flip of my stomach when I swayed and almost fell. Nowadays, it’s less about physical risk and more about doing things that scare me in other ways: moving to foreign lands, taking jobs I’ve never done before, travelling solo through dodgy cities, riding semi-wild horses, joining strangers for weekends away, having dinner alone with a group of people who don’t speak any English… maybe not physically “dangerous” any more, but definitely pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. The danger is that I’m going to embarrass myself, or fail miserably, or be lonely, or get lost, but it’s danger all the same. And yes, I would leap out of a plane for fun, given the chance.
I don’t necessarily mean alcohol, here, but beverages in general. I am almost always thirsty – and yes, I’ve been tested (a couple of times) for diabetes, but apparently there’s nothing wrong with me. I just like to drink. It took a while for the staff at school to get used to the sight of me carrying around a 2-litre bottle of water and refilling it at intervals throughout the day, but they accept it now. The little cups at the water coolers are just too pointlessly small for me. I used to hate drinking water, but now I get through several litres a day. In addition, there’s nothing like my quiet time in the morning with my fresh hot coffee… my iced coffee as an occasional (OK, regular) treat… the delicious Korean blue grape juice that I drink at home… soju at dinner with friends… a gin and tonic on a hot summer’s day… cocktails (mojitos and tequila sunrises, dahling)…
Why rush when you can dawdle and see all sorts of interesting things along the way? Well, unless you’re actually in a hurry to get somewhere, but I rarely walk anywhere in this weather because of the fact that I’d look like a drowned and boiled rat by the time I arrived. Instead, I find a taxi as quickly as possible, arrive vaguely cool and non-frizzy, and then walk home at a leisurely pace, taking in my surroundings. Dawdling along the streets of a foreign country is great entertainment!
Not a flower, in fact, but possibly my favourite student ever out of all the hundreds I have taught. Daisy is a joy to know. I actually wrote that on her last report. She was a quiet little mouse when I first saw her – it was my first day of teaching, and she was about 8 or 9 years old. She was timid, easily brought to tears, unenthusiastic about learning English, but very cute and polite. Now she’s 10 or 11 (I have difficulty with their actual ages because of the whole fake age thing), and I feel like I’ve had the wonderful experience of watching this sweet little girl grow up, gain confidence, and become a beautiful person. Her English has improved dramatically, and she is now able to chat to me when she arrives at the school each afternoon. She is always smiling, and always positive about whatever’s going on in her life. She has developed a real love for learning and studying, and blushes with delight when I give her a sincere “Well done!” for her hard work. I often think that her English name suits her very well, because when I hear “Daisy”, I think of sunshine and childhood and happiness. No longer a tiny little girl, she’s at the gangly, stretched-out pre-teen stage – and it’s a privilege to watch her blossom like her namesake.
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